Education, Yes. But Only on Authoritarian Terms

On Friday students skipped school to take to the streets and express their dissatisfaction with the educational system in Hungary. Their main concerns being no future and a better overall education plan. In other words, teach us something we can use, not just something to keep you, the educator, occupied while you’re sitting in school.

It did not go down well. In fact, being called ungrateful brats was one of the nicest things said about them, on forums, in households across the nation, in the press, whether these outlets were English or Hungarian. After all, thus ran the general consensus, if I was able to get through this system without a scar, why shouldn’t you?

And here precisely lies the crux of the matter, the one that underlies every Hungarian action, and drives the Hungarian psyche. The explanation for why Hungarians will sooner roll their eyes than say a friendly hello and complain about “all that foreign ruff raff,” while they themselves spread like cockroaches abroad (yes, I’m calling my people cockroaches deliberately, because while it’s true that they can survive every and anywhere, they also evoke the same kind of reaction as the six-legged creepy crawlers, so deal with it), all of which culminates in that one mantra: why should you have it better than me?

The Hungarian soul is by nature pessimistic in its fatalism. While we are able to act, create, and perform to our heart’s content – and let’s face it, Hungarians do have a certain talent when it comes to the creative fields – this sense of beauty never translates to real life, in which we trudge through each day fueled by the bitterness we have accumulated over the years of constant defeat. And lest we think we have it better than our ancestors, there are always history books and personal accounts to set us straight. Life is a struggle and no matter how hard we try, it will always best us. Yet, parents will do anything to show off their children, and boys especially, always get the royal treatment. The same treatment they later expect from their wives and the people around them. And if all your life you’ve been spoiled rotten, well, you’re not about to change all of a sudden, or accommodate easily to circumstances when things are not going your way.

Hence the eye roll when you dare to disturb the king or queen while he or she was idly gathering his or her thoughts. Hence the snippy, “so what am I supposed to do now,” when you’ve been waiting thirty minutes for your takeout at the counter with only one customer ahead of you, who ordered a Coke and fries, while your order is a panini, which the server puts onto the grill only when he sees you lean forward to get his attention so you can tell him to cancel your order.

Hungarians, spoiled rotten from birth (the boys more so than the girls) consequently expect everything to go their way if, when, and how they want something. Defy that expectation and there will be hell to pay. While mothers and fathers expect their children to tow the line and not bring shame on them in any way, shape or form, sons can and will count on their mothers – and later their partners – to clean, cook, iron, and cater to their hearts’ content. Girls, knowing that they are nothing without a man, no matter how hard, trying, taxing, or abusive the relationship do not have that luxury with their fathers, who seem to change into antagonists somewhere between birth and puberty.

Spoiled brats and unappreciated slaves do not for a good mixture make. And so it is no wonder that people balk at (those) extending a helping hand. The system is too fragile to withstand any type of questioning or dissent. It necessitates a firm hand, which we find present at the head of the table when we consume the evening meal, and extends to Dear Leader, whose authoritarian fear mongering is what keeps this freat nation together. For fear is the proverbial oil that greases the wheel. And change questions the comfort of our precious routine, so that it must be quenched and assigned to the devil. For as every intelligent Hungarian knows, those marches and protests were all single-handedly masterminded by the devil himself, George Soros, who declares himself to be – shock, horror – a philanthropist. Which means there’s something severely wrong with him. Oh, and he’s also Jewish, and he fled during the war. But that’s another story for another day.

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7 comments

    • Among other things, yes. It’s not just the teaching material though. These days, over here, questioning anything is seen as liberal, immoral, and just plain wrong. You’re expected to follow authority blindly. Then comes the red tape. I shouldn’t complain though, as the system allows me to teach those students who want to perfect their skills outside of school.

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    • Thank you! I think it is a calling in a way, at least if I look at the colleagues I respect. Personally, I fell into it more than making a conscious decision, but I would have ended up teaching somehow anyway.

      I’ve always believed that a good educator guides rather than dictates, which is why I’m totally on the side of these kids. They’re discouraged from thinking, never mind asking, and the books that were “made better” have a very interesting theme if some pictures are to be believed (in Hungary I work with institutions, not schools). When presenting Italy, it was mentioned that its one of the EU states “that is presently suffering from the onslaught of mass migration.” I blocked what I was reading after that. Whatever happened to explaining how and why Italy has refugees, how this affects people on all sides, what benefits and disadvantages there are, and how to approach all of this.

      I’m still trying to get them to drop racial slurs, which even teachers use mindlessly. Or – and this is my favorite pretty much everywhere – presenting Africa as one country. When there are students from Kenya, Nigeria, and Somalia in the classroom. Or saying all beggars on the streets are Roma. Or suggesting foreigners / kids with foreign names who were born bred there go into certain fields.

      The kids are expressing themselves, and that’s a great thing. They want to be able to think and not be punished, and they want skills they can use. I could never be on the side of a system that calls for mindless submission or discrimination for whatever reason. There’s a lot of people I dislike, and I’m a bit of a snob (if people bore me I move on), but I can’t see myself disliking someone for where they are from or how far they got in school. Which is what this system is trying to perpetrate. Unless you’re German, of course. Or from Hungary / the country my mom was born in. 😉

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